Parenting 101: What The Toad Whisperer Taught Me

In Parenting by lesbrownLeave a Comment


My daughter, Abbie, is 8 years old. It’s hard for me to believe, but that precious girl is already 8. As the oldest, she learns a lot of lessons first, which isn’t easy. She also gets to teach Mom and Dad a few things as well. Also not easy.

After returning from Pine Cove family camp a few weeks ago, Abbie popped into the kitchen and asked if we had any frog food. Knowing that we had some somewhere from a failed attempt to raise tadpoles last year, I tried to brush her off.

“I think so, but I don’t know where. Why?”

“No reason.”

And she skipped off to her room. I thought I’d dodged a bullet for sure. No way did I want another pet to take care of. Desi and I have plenty to do already and the thought of getting another cage, aquarium, tank, etc. to clean or another mouth to feed made me crazy. “No More Pets!” has been my mantra for a while now and the incredikids know it.

A couple of days later, Abbie, quite casually asked, “Whatever happened to our little aquarium?” Not connecting the dots or even noticing that there were dots around to connect, I responded, “I’m not sure baby. Probably in the garage. Why?”

“No reason.”

I’m so off of my game. “No reason,” should stick out like a Las Vegas casino marquis on fire. There’s always a reason. Always.

And of course there was a reason. Sweet Abbiegirl came clean a few days later. She told her mom first. Smart. She had found two frogs (toads actually) at Pine Cove and kept them in a water bottle in our cabin. She poked holes in the bottle and put water and food (bugs) inside. She managed to smuggle them home in her stuff and then secreted them away to her room. We had absolutely no clue. She took care of them in her room for at least a week before telling us.

When Desi told me, I had one thought and one thought only – punishment. What is the correct punishment for this? We don’t have a specific rule about this, but it is a deception. No doubt about it. She has tricked us. She has DECEIVED us. And we can not stand for that. My internal punishment rolodex was spinning out of control when Desi stopped me.

“She did come clean about it. I didn’t have to ask her. And she has taken really great care of them. I don’t want to punish her when she comes to us and confesses.”

Good point.

Now, you can quibble with us over the choice to let her keep the frogs toads. And I’d be willing to hear the argument, but that’s not the point of this post. Here’s the point…

The toads are actually kind of awesome. The kids are loving it. A neighbor friend gave them an old tank she wasn’t going to use anymore. They’ve been reading up on toad care. There’s now some organic soil in the tank along with a little bowl of water and some rocks. The toads are happily burrowing into the dirt and eating pill bugs like crazy. And the incredikids are learning a ton. Abbie is taking responsibility for these things in a way that I haven’t seen her before with anything else. It’s really great. And there’s no way I would have ever said “yes” if she’d asked me. She knew that. And that’s the point. She shouldn’t have done this without asking. Especially if she knew what my response would be. We’ve had that conversation and we’ll have it again. But I need to learn something in this process, too. My little girl is growing up. She needs the benefit of learning from taking responsibility for things. I need to say “yes” more. Even when I’m pretty sure that I will be the one taking care of the toads at some point, I still need to say “yes” more. She needs these opportunities. All of them do. They won’t ever get them if the answer is always “no.”

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lesbrownParenting 101: What The Toad Whisperer Taught Me

Leadership Lessons From A Lone Ranger

In Church Tech, Leadership by lesbrownLeave a Comment

Lone Ranger

Aaron? Tanto? Anyone?

Reading Exodus 18 today and was reminded of an amazing leadership principle that we’re attempting to instill in our tech teams at Watermark. As Moses and the people leave the Red Sea and the Egyptian army (navy?) behind, their culture begins to go through a major shift. They’ve been in crisis mode ever since they left Egypt. They fled the only home that any of them had ever known carrying everything they own. After running for their lives with the Egyptians on their tails, they can finally breathe a little and possibly even relax. But not so for Moses. Every day he sits to judge the people. In short, he’s dealing with all of the people’s conflicts and squabbles. Not good. There are hundreds of thousands of people and only one of him. His Father-in-law, the wise man, Jethro sees this and gives Moses a big dose of tough love.

Now when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge and all the people stand about you from morning until evening?” Exodus 18:14

Moses responds very correctly:

Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor and make known the statutes of God and His laws.” Exodus 18:15–16

Moses is the only one around who can do what he does.  Big problem.

So Jethro gives Moses a few simple leadership lessons that make it possible for him to lead this vast group of people.

Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. Now listen to me: I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God, then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do. Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. Exodus 18:17–21

Jethro understood a few key points that Moses, likely out of his desire to lead well, had missed. Here they are:

  1. You can’t do this alone.
  2. God has equipped you.
  3. You equip the people.
  4. Choose men who fear God and make them leaders.

These same lessons apply to us in the Church Tech World. I know they have to me. In most cases it’s easier for me to just handle a problem or issue on my own than to entrust it to someone else, but when I do that I’m failing. If I don’t teach other people to do what I do then my ministry can’t grow. It’s an easy trap to fall into and one I’m still working to avoid.

Moses was an amazing leader and it was easy for him to become a lone ranger. Don’f fall into that same trap yourself. You may be the most technically-proficient guy within 100 miles of your building, but just like Moses, you can’t do this alone. Stop trying to. Thank God today for equipping you to do what you do and ask him to bring you others who you can equip. Train them well. Out of that group, choose men who fear God and make them leaders. In doing so, you will serve your church, your volunteers, yourself, and ultimately, your God, well.

What are you doing to combat the Lone Ranger trap? How does this work in your ministry?

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lesbrownLeadership Lessons From A Lone Ranger

How’s Your Shalometer?

In LIfe by lesbrownLeave a Comment

If you’re wondering what the heck a Shalometer is you’re in the right place. If you’re looking to buy one, you’re outta luck.  If you need yours repaired, I might be able to help you.  If you think this is ridiculous keep on reading.

I attended a funeral recently. Sad situation.  A girl in her 20’s who lost a lifelong battle with eating disorders.  I didn’t know her, I was there just to make sure all the technical aspects – lighting, sound, video, etc. – were working correctly.

Several people got up and spoke. Her doctor of many years. Her father – that one was tough. Her Aunt, who clearly loved her and knew the Bible very well.  The final speaker was her cousin’s husband.  A young pastor faced with a rather difficult service.

About halfway through the pastor’s sermon, he talked about “shalom.” He defined it for the audience.  I thought I knew the definition.  Growing up in the church, I had always heard that “shalom” translated to the English word “peace.” That is true, in a limited way.  As the pastor continued, I found out that while “shalom” can be translated “peace” it’s actual meaning is much broader and difficult to contain in one English word.  You really need several English words to adequately translate it.  “Shalom” actually combines the following concepts: peace, fullness, safety, satisfaction, harmony, completion, and soundness, into one bigger concept.  When you think about it, “shalom” sounds pretty good.  I think it’s what God made us for.

See, God gives us rules, and plans, and concepts to live by, and it’s easy to feel like those rules are there to punish us or withhold something from us.  Not at all.  He put those things in place so that we can have shalom.  Right now.  Right here on earth.  Think about it. When God gave the Hebrew people the Ten Commandments, there was no other people-group around them that had anything like that. And those people were living in horrific chaos. Then God gave HIs people the law and as long as they lived by it, they flourished. They treated each other well.  They lived well. As long as they followed God’s ways, they had Shalom.

It’s the same for us today.

The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.
Proverbs 28:1

When we’ve done wrong, or been “wicked,” we live life on the run. Why? So we don’t get caught.  We’ve all been there at one point or another.  Living out a sinful pattern or lifestyle doesn’t bring freedom, it brings shame, and guilt.  Just like Adam and Eve in the Garden, we hide from God because of our shame.  That is not shalom. It’s the exact opposite. God didn’t make us to run when no one pursues.  No.  He made us to be bold as lions.  That is the essence of shalom.  When we’re living a righteous life, one that honors God and follows his laws and precepts, we have shalom – peace, fullness, soundness, harmony, satisfaction, and completion.  That is so good isn’t it?

Okay. So I still haven’t told you what a Shalometer is, but I think you’re probably figuring it out.  I was talking to a buddy about this the other day and I asked him what his shalom level was like right now.  He immediately fired back. “You mean like my shalom meter? My Shalometer?” and it stuck.  It sounds kinda funny to ask someone how their shalometer is doing but when you think about it, it’s a great little diagnostic question.  How much peace and satisfaction do you have right now? Are you feeling safe and full in life lately? That’s what it’s getting at.  How much shalom are you experiencing? Not much? Then let’s talk about why. And off you go into an awesome conversation.

For me this whole concept of shalom is sorta turning things inside out. I’m not sure I really have my head wrapped around it fully, but I’m getting there. I can say that my awareness of God’s presence in my life has definitely increased lately.  I feel like I’ve got a great target to hit.

So, I hope this is helpful to you.  It has been to me.  I really would love to see some comments. How’s your Shalometer these days?

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lesbrownHow’s Your Shalometer?